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Norway PM Solberg rules out Swedish exemption to coronavirus border rules

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg has told her Swedish counterpart Stefan Löfven that Norway will not fully open its border with its Scandinavian neighbour.

Norway PM Solberg rules out Swedish exemption to coronavirus border rules
Norway's PM Erna Solberg says she will not make any exceptions to her country's coronavirus travel restrictions for neighbouring Sweden. Photo: AFP

Solberg made Norway’s position clear during a video meeting between the two Nordic government leaders on Monday, news wire NTB reports.

“It is clear that the Swedes would have like us to be more liberal on the question of borders,” Solberg told NTB.

“But we have a system in place that we are very consistent on, and we are going to continue with that,” she added.

After closing its borders at the outset of the pandemic, Norway lifted travel restrictions with most EEA and Schengen area countries on July 15th, but rising infections in Europe have resulted in a gradual re-tightening of guidelines and rules.

Arrivals from the vast majority of countries in Europe are now required to observe a 10-day quarantine period on arrival in Norway.

For fellow Nordic countries, Norway's health authorities judge on a regional basis, so some Swedish regions can be exempted from quarantine while others remain encompassed by it.

People from Blekinge, Gotland, Kalmar, Norrboten, Södermanland, Värmland, Västernorrland and Åland are currently not required to quarantine on arrival in Norway. People from all other Swedish regions must quarantine. The regional restrictions are updated weekly.

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Norway has a number of circumstances which may exempt you from quarantine rules, include crossing borders between Sweden and Norway for work reasons. The specific details of these exemptions can be complex. If you think you might be encompassed, you can check in more detail on the Helsenorge (Health Norway) website here.

Solberg said on Monday that she recognised the concerns of politicians in Sweden over Norway’s coronavirus travel restrictions.

“I can see the difficulties for them with jobs near the border which have been dependent on Norwegian border shopping,” she said to NTB.

“But we are more concerned with the virus situation,” she added.

Norway enforces its quarantine requirement on EU, EEA and Schengen countries or Nordic regions if the rate of new coronavirus infections is more than 20 cases per 100,000 people for the last two weeks.

“We have seen that we have had infections close to the Swedish border, not least in Indre Østfold (Municipality), which can be traced to some infections being brought over the border,” Solberg said.

She also pointed out that the regionalised approach within the Nordic countries has allowed more open travel from some parts of Sweden even when the country as a whole would qualify for quarantine.

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COVID-19

Did Sweden’s state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

For his supporters, it was well-deserved, for his detractors a case of failing upwards. But when Sweden's Public Health Agency announced this month that state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was taking a job at the World Health Organisation, both sides assumed it was true.

Did Sweden's state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

Now, it seems, the job might not be there after all. 

At the start of this month, Sweden’s Public Health Agency announced that Anders Tegnell was resigning to take up a post coordinating vaccine work with the World Health Organisation in Geneva. 

“I’ve worked with vaccines for 30 years and have at the same time always been inspired by international issues,” Tegnell said in the release. “Now I will have the chance to contribute to this comprehensive international work.”

During the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tegnell shot immediately from obscurity into the spotlight, gaining such celebrity status in Sweden that one fan had his profile tattooed onto his arm.

Internationally he was hailed by lockdown sceptics for his reasoned arguments against overly restrictive measures to control the spread of the virus. 

His new WHO appointment was reported all over the world. 

But on Tuesday, the Svenska Daglabdet newspaper revealed that the job had not yet been awarded. A spokesperson for the WHO said at a press conference in Geneva that “there is some confusion”, and that “this is an internal question.” 

According to the newspaper, there is even “a certain level of irritation” behind the scenes at the WHO that Sweden acted too soon and dispatched Tegnell to a job that did not actually exist yet. 

“We have received an offer from Sweden, which is still under discussion,” the organisation’s press spokesperson, Fadela Chaib, told the newspaper. 

On Thursday, the Public Health Agency’s press chief Christer Janson conceded that there had been a mistake and that the negotiation had not been completed.  

“We believed it was done, but it wasn’t,” he told Expressen in an interview. “It’s been a much longer process to get this completed than we thought. There’s been a misunderstanding and we regret that.” 

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